Les Moonves used to be one of the most powerful executives in the TV biz. But now, after being cashiered out of CBS due to a sex harassment allegation, he is just another victim of the #MeToo movement.
Moonves is responsible for a very long list of hit TV shows such as The Big Bang Theory and N.C.I.S.But now, after an incredibly successful TV career, he is out at CBS, forced into retirement just ahead of charges that he is a harasser.
Moonves, 68, will relinquish the titles of chairman and chief executive officer of CBS immediately, CBS said in a statement on Sunday. Chief Operating Officer Joseph Ianniello was appointed his interim successor during a search for a permanent leader.
The media mogul’s exit was accelerated by explosive allegations in the New Yorker, which reported that he sexually harassed a dozen women and tried to harm their careers. The board also ended a separate legal fight with majority shareholder National Amusements Inc. on Sunday after trying to dilute its 80 percent voting stake in a fight for control of the company.
Investors had long respected Moonves. He was regarded as one of the most capable programming executives in television, and one of the highest-paid as well. But the New Yorker stories — including a new set of accusations on Sunday — drew him into the broader #MeToo movement. And the returns on CBS shares have lagged behind those of a wider media-stock index, especially as mergers swept through the industry.
As part of his split, Moonves and CBS will donate $20 million to one or more groups that support “the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace,” the company said.
Bloomberg recounted Moonves’ career:
Moonves has worked at CBS since 1995 and has been CEO since the company was separated in 2006 from Viacom. The company is still full of executives who have been loyal to Moonves. Kelly Kahl, the had of CBS Entertainment, and David Stapf, the head of CBS’ studio, have worked with Moonves since before he joined the company. Jo Ann Ross, the head of advertising sales, has worked at CBS for 25 years.
Sumner Redstone, the now-incapacitated patriarch of both companies, is famous for dismissing lieutenants, and his daughter Shari followed in his footsteps by orchestrating the 2016 ouster of Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman.
Moonves had repeatedly sought written assurances that he could operate CBS without too much interference from the Redstones. He and the board moved to dilute the Redstones’ control when they feared the family would replace current directors to force a merger with Viacom.
The Moonves exit has also caused the exit of several of the CBS board members. Indeed, six members of the board lost their positions.
So, CBS is making all sorts of moves over this incident. It will likely materially hurt CBS because the talent that made CBS a powerhouse are now gone to be replaced by people who are just “diversity” hires instead of people who are good at their jobs.
This is what America is coming to. This is what will contribute to the dumbing down of our entire society.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.
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